Manage Summer Pastures
Assess your geographic region, plant species, soil, and plant stand to help maintain your pastures’ (and your horses’) health.
This past summer I stood in the blistering early August sun surveying my Kentucky pastures. Grass was nearly nonexistent and a few straggling thistles and ironweeds stood tall. My cattle and horses wandered in search of anything palatable, kicking up dust with every step. Two previous years of record-breaking drought had decimated the fields, and despite a wet spring they looked like the African savanna.
Have you ever had one of those epiphanies where you realize that what you had taken for years as indisputable fact was wrong? I was a veteran of the “Back to the Land” movement of the ’70s and a believer in nonchemical, minimum fossil fuel land management. I used no herbicides or fertilizers since I had plenty of ground for the number of animals that would graze upon it. Our pastures were large open fields with trees here and there for shade, and there were several natural water sources and a float waterer near the barn. The grasses were primarily fescue with a mix of natural grasses and a little orchardgrass that was planted sporadically by previous owners. The pastures seemed perfect.
About the only effective management technique I practiced over the years was bush-hogging the fields to about six inches just after the thistles and broadleaf weeds formed flower heads, but before seed formation. The plants had put so much energy into reproduction that mowing at this stage reduced their seed production dramatically. Old pastures comprised of 25% thistles, multiflora rose, and other noxious (invasive and rapidly spreading) weeds dropped to less than 5% without expensive and environmentally unsafe pesticides. The grasses filled back in
Create a free account with TheHorse.com to view this content.
Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with